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Employment Tribunal fees for BusinessesWhen we refer to claim for unfair dismissal, in very general terms we mean the issue to be decided is whether the business had a legal fair reason for the individual’s dismissal, and furthermore whether the individual’s dismissal by the business was fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.
As for claims for wrongful dismissal, this in essence is where the business has dismissed the individual in breach of the terms of the individual’s contract of employment. In practice, a claim for wrongful dismissal tends to be a claim for unpaid notice pay.
Factors taken into account in our fees
Our fees for acting on such claims vary according to numerous factors, including the following:
The nature of the claim. Some claims for unfair dismissal are straightforward whilst others, for example those involving “whistleblowing” or discrimination claims, can be complex. For more complex claims, more time needs to be spent on handling the claim because, for example:
- there may be numerous claims.
- the claims may involve a large number or greater complexity of legal issues.
- documentation such as the individual’s particulars of claim and the business’ defence are likely to be lengthy.
- the likelihood of “preliminary” hearings (i.e. short hearings which take place on a date or dates before the main hearing) needing to take place may increase. An example is where the person bringing the claim has an illness or injury and the Tribunal needs to decide whether they are disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 (as if they are, such people have, in essence, additional legal protection from being treated less favourably than others who are not disabled).
- the main hearing at the Tribunal may need to take place over multiple days. Straightforward claims for unfair dismissal often take place over one day, more complex cases often over 2-5 days, and very complicated Tribunal cases involving many witnesses and documents as well as complex areas of law can take place over may more days, often over 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes (though rarely) even longer.
The value of the claim. The higher the amount of money which is being claimed, the more likelihood that more senior lawyers will be involved. The more senior the lawyer, the higher the fees will be (see below for more information).
The solicitor or other lawyers involved in handling the claim. Lawyers who are involved with these Tribunal claims vary from trainee solicitors to partners. Again, the more complex the claim, and the higher the amount of money which is being claimed, the more senior the lawyer who will be involved. Furthermore, as some work involved in Tribunal proceedings is more suited to be carried out by more junior lawyers, it is common for there to be more than one lawyer acting on a Tribunal claim, each of whom has different hourly rates (see later).
Amending claims and other additional applications. Sometimes either or both parties will make applications to change their claim or defence, to ask for more information on these or to make costs applications. Any of these will increase costs.
Litigants in person. When the person bringing the claim does not have a lawyer representing them, and instead has decided to handle the claim themselves, this can result in more work being involved, which may sometimes increase costs.
Whether a barrister is involved. Whilst our lawyers undertake their own advocacy, sometimes and for various reasons, including in complex cases or for cost reasons, barristers will be instructed to advise and to represent the client as their advocate in Employment Tribunals. Depending on the circumstances, this can have the effect of sometimes increasing and sometimes decreasing the client’s overall fees. Barristers’ fees are charged as a separate disbursement to our own fees (see below).
Whether insurance or other funding options are available. Some businesses will have the benefit of legal fees insurance or other funding options which, where we are willing and able to act on such matters, may result in the client potentially having to pay no or reduced fees (depending on the terms of the policy, including any excess to be paid). We check this with the client.
The merits of the claim. The less likely the claim will be successful, the higher likelihood that the former employee will wish to settle the claim, and do so sooner rather than later, reducing the time needed to be spent on the matter, and therefore our fees.
Whether expert medical reports and evidence is needed. This can range from a short report provided by a GP to an examination plus lengthy report prepared by a consultant or other expert. These fees are charged as a separate disbursement to our own fees (see below).
Our hourly rates
When estimating our fees for acting on these claims, we base that estimate on the likely time to be spent and the relevant hourly rates for the lawyers who would be involved in handling the claim.
The following provides a guide to our current hourly rates for acting on such matters:
- Partner: £330 - £350 plus vat.
- Associate Solicitor: £245 plus vat.
- Solicitor: £180 - £225 plus vat.
- Trainee Solicitor – £125 plus vat.
To view members of our team please view the Meet The Team section of our Employment page.
Disbursements – i.e., costs related to the matter that are payable to third parties
In addition to our fees, the following disbursements would be charged (in all cases, plus VAT):
- Barristers’ fees (see above and below).
- Expert medical reports and witnesses (see above and below).
- Travel expenses, including for travelling to and from Tribunal Hearing centres as well as to visit witnesses (including standard class rail fares, taxi fares and car mileage (the latter at 45p plus vat per mile)).
- Accommodation and subsistence, where for example we stay overnight such as during a Tribunal Hearing involving more than one day or where the location of the Tribunal dealing with the claim is some distance away from our offices.
- Photocopying charges - per A4 sheet, 25p plus vat for black and white and 95p plus vat for colour.
Even where a barrister is involved, we tend to have one of our solicitors also present at the Tribunal hearing – sometimes not for hearings which take place before the main hearing (ie, “preliminary” hearings) – but we would tend to do so for the main hearing. We do charge for the lawyer’s attendance for their time at the hearing, and this charge can range from a flat fee of £500 plus VAT to £2,800 plus VAT on a one day hearing. The fees to be charged will depend on the complexity of the case, the need for active involvement of the solicitor and whether they are a solicitor, associate solicitor or partner (their rates are referred to above).
As for an estimate of fees relating to medical reports and experts, as the costs will vary considerably depending on the circumstances of each case, including whether the expert is required to attend the Tribunal hearing and whether the costs are split between the individual and the business, it is not practicable to provide guidance on costs here, other than to say that the medical expert’s fees can range from less than £100 to a few £1,000s, sometimes more.
Estimate of fees and disbursements
It is because of all the factors mentioned earlier that it is not possible to provide here an indication on likely fees for acting for a business on every claim, as they will vary from a few thousand pounds to £50,000 plus VAT and beyond. Instead, if a business wishes to instruct us, we would review the claim brought against them and then be able to provide a clear estimate of the likely fees.
To try however to provide some form of indication, a straightforward claim for an unfair or wrongful dismissal usually takes place over one day. In such cases our fees may be in the region of £12,000- £16,000 plus VAT plus disbursements.
As for the disbursements, as mentioned above a barrister’s fee to act as the client’s advocate on such a claim would tend to be in the region of £3,000 - £5,000 plus VAT.
The solicitor attending at the hearing is likely to incur a flat fee of £500 - £2800 plus VAT.
This results in a total estimate for a straightforward claim for unfair or wrongful dismissal, without the need for medical reports and evidence, to be heard over one day at a location close to our offices, of £15,500 - £23,800 plus VAT and any other disbursements (such as travel expenses).
More complex cases to be heard over more than one day could result in fees of £23,800 - £30,000 plus VAT and any other disbursements (such as travel expenses).
Highly complex cases to be heard over many days could result in fees of £30,000 plus VAT to £100,000 plus VAT and possibly beyond depending on complexity, as well as any other disbursements (such as travel expenses).
If a Preliminary Hearing is needed, this estimate will increase, the amount of which depends on numerous factors such as the purpose of the hearing. As examples, if the hearing is to address the issue of whether the person bringing the claim is disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act is complex, this will result in more work needing to be carried out and more experienced lawyers involved, therefore increasing fees. It would not be unusual for such a preliminary hearing to increase costs by another say £5,000 plus VAT.
Furthermore, some preliminary hearings are much more straight forward and can even happen over the telephone. Such preliminary hearings may increase costs by an additional say £2,000 plus VAT.
The fees set out above cover all of the work in relation to the following key stages of a claim:
- Taking initial instructions, reviewing the papers and advising on merits and likely compensation (this is likely to be revisited throughout the matter and subject to change).
- Entering into pre-claim conciliation via ACAS which is mandatory to explore whether a settlement can be reached.
- Preparing the defence.
- Reviewing and advising on the claim.
- Exploring settlement and negotiating settlement throughout the process.
- Preparing for (and attending) a Preliminary Hearing.
- Exchanging documents with the other party and agreeing a bundle of documents.
- Taking witness statements, drafting statements and agreeing their content with witnesses.
- Preparing bundle of documents.
- Reviewing and advising on the other party's witness statements.
- Agreeing a list of issues, a chronology and/or cast list.
- Preparation and attendance at Final Hearing, including instructions to Counsel.
How long will the matter take?
The time that it takes from taking initial instructions to the final resolution of the matter depends largely on the stage at which the case is resolved. If a settlement is reached during pre-claim conciliation, the case is likely to take 3- 4 weeks. If the claim proceeds to a Final Hearing, the case is likely to take 12 to 18 months. This is just an estimate and we will of course be able to give you a more accurate timescale once we have more information and as the matter progresses.
Will the losing party have to reimburse any of the other party’s fees?
In employment Tribunal proceedings, the usual rule is that each party bears their own fees, which means that the losing party will not usually be ordered to pay any of the winning party’s fees.
There are however exceptions to this, including where, in the Tribunal’s opinion, a party has acted unreasonably, for example by bringing or defending the claim, or in the way they have conducted themselves during the proceedings. In such cases, the Tribunal may order one party to pay some or all of the other party’s fees.
We do of course advise clients of this and the possibility of such a costs order being made at the outset as well as at appropriate stages throughout.
All the above excludes the following as it is not practicable to provide information on fees on these areas without knowledge of the full facts, as any such fees will vary considerably and an attempt to provide any indication of likely fees would be misleading:
1. Fees and disbursements for acting on any appeals from Employment Rribunals or any Court.
2. Fees and disbursements for acting on claims for wrongful dismissal (breach of contract) in any Court
(claims for notice pay above £25,000 need to be brought in a court rather than in an Employment
Tribunal, and the above principles and estimates are based on defending claims of up to £25,000
brought in an Employment Tribunal).